Mystery Solved: Stan, the T. Rex, Went to Abu Dhabi

In October 2020, something that is not very easy to hide — the fossil of a 39-foot-long Tyrannosaurus rex — disappeared.

The famous T. rex known as Stan — named after his discoverer, the fossil hunter Stan Sacrison — was sold at auction at Christie’s for $31.8 million, shattering sales records. But the buyer was anonymous and little was heard about the fossil, which worried paleontologists.

They feared the T. rex had been purchased by a private owner, who could deny access to researchers.

Stan had already contributed to critical studies about how his species’ bones healed after injuries and about the pulverizing force that these dinosaurs can summon to crush bone.

But on Wednesday, as reported in National Geographic, officials in Abu Dhabi announced they were constructing a new natural history museum and that Stan would be one of its major attractions when it opens in several years.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, the chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi, said in a statement that he aimed to make the United Arab Emirates capital a place for “research, collaboration and discovery.”

“Natural history has a new home in Abu Dhabi,” Al Mubarak said. “A new museum which tells the story of our universe through some of the most incredible natural wonders known to mankind.

“These are awe-inspiring gifts from nature that we are proud to share with the world — unlocking millions of years of knowledge to not only advance scientific discovery but to inspire our children to protect our planet’s future.”

The museum, slated to be completed by the end of 2025, will take up 377,000 square feet on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest and largest of the country’s seven emirates.

Over the past 15 years, the Emirati government has funneled money and cultural resources into Saadiyat Island, as the U.A.E. seeks to expand its economy beyond oil. The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is now set to open there in 2025, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi opened on the island in 2017.

The mystery of who had purchased the fossil had led to speculation that Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. the Rock, might have been the buyer. Johnson had appeared on ESPN’s “ManningCast” in January with a T. rex skull behind him and the scientific community wondered whether he was the new owner.

“That buyer was not me,” Johnson clarified on Instagram. “My love, respect, fascination and curiosity for paleontological & archaeological science runs deep — and if I was the proud owner of the real Stan, I sure as hell wouldn’t keep him in my office. I’d keep him in a museum, so the world could enjoy, study and learn from him.”

And now it seems like that is exactly what will occur.


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